Saturday, May 1, 2010

Blog #139: Some "ifs and buts"

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Say What?!!!

Claire McCaskill, Senator for Missouri, casts a jaundiced eye during testimony by executives for Goldman Sachs earlier this week. "You are the bookie. You are the house. You have less oversight and less regulation ... than a pit boss in Las Vegas," she said. Later, she added, "You think you're so smart. Any street gambler would never place a bet with a bookie or with the house with the record that is revealed in the documents that this committee has gathered."

Photo Melina Mara-The Washington Post

Why there’s no Flash on iPhone, iPad

It has been estimated that as much 75 % of the video available on the web uses a technology from Adobe Systems called Flash. Apple’s venerable C.E.O. Steve Jobs, has riled up much of the tech community by refusing to allow Adobe’s flash to work on iPhones and iPads. Finally, for the record he has stated his reasons for what seems on the surface like an arbitrary decision.

Reason one: Flash is proprietary, not open. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Second there’s the full web. Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance. Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

Fourth, there’s battery life. To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264 – an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies.

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.

When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Fifth, there’s Touch. Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

And so the Jobs reasoning winds down. Although a lot of websites took exception to his reasons, none can truly challenge his reasons for banning Flash. If you are interested in the entirety of his points you can access his article by pointing your cursor and clicking here!

Although those with the technological expertise to question Jobs’ reasoning are few and far between, it is good that he put his thinking out in the open for all to peruse. And by stressing the issue of battery life, and the fact that software rendering which flash requires, shortens a device’s battery life by fifty percent over hardware rendering, is certainly something even non technological types should be able to understand.

However, Apple’s operations have of late more and more resembled those monstrous monopolies’ of yesteryear we knew and loved to hate, entities like Microsoft and IBM. It is no secret that today’s younger generation believes Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert more than they believe dyed-in-the-wool news organizations like those of CNN, NBC, and CBS.

It is because Stewart and Colbert will wade into areas where the big news boys fear to tread that has caught the attention of the young, and they will turn the spotlight of truth on the most sacred of industry taboos. Apple is growing “too big for its britches” as we used to say when I was a kid. And in it’s quest for secrecy and in its paranoia over real and imagined “leaks,” the mighty Apple is beginning to show many of the obnoxiousness of you know who.

The individuals who would speak to truth to Apple and Steve Jobs are few and far between. And so enter Jon Stewart shining a light on areas of tech where nary an ordinary mortal would fear to tread, all the while endeavoring to be non judgmental as he exhibits a love for Apple’s products. We now bring you Jon Stewart’s skewering of Steve Jobs and Apple, while in the end whispering could Apple send him one of those new phones with a camera in the front.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

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A winged politician feeds a worm to a political constituent in Chicago. David Carson-AP

Also from the Huffington Post, world renowned scientist Stephen Hawking believes extraterrestrial life almost certainly exists – and humans should be extremely cautious about interacting with it.

"To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational," Hawking says in a new Discovery Channel series called Stephen Hawking's Universe. "The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach."

He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is "a little too risky". He said: "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans.”

Stephen W. Hawking

Although the voice narrating the Discovery Channel series is not his own computer generated voice, on one video, available here Hawking answers questions put to him in that voice. The first episode of Hawking’s new Discovery Channel series, Fear the Aliens, can be accessed here! §

A goat, distantly related to the Flying Wallendas, performs wire-walking with a monkey on its back at a zoo in Fuzhou, China. Photo Reuters

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I’ve got good news to report in regards to the I.R.S. request which I reported on last week, which had suggested I take the next step in the paying of my back taxes, which would begin with getting the proper 1099 forms for the year 2008.

I had the form for one of my income providers of that year, Wells Fargo Investments, but I needed forms from Social Security and The Hartford for my annuity to complete my needs. Well, as I laboriously documented in last week’s blog, I put in the calls on Tuesday, and I’m happy to report that 1099 forms from both entities arrived in Saturday’s mail.

(I guess Saturday mail deliveries will soon be a thing of the past since latest reports indicate that the Postal Service wants to do away with them.) Now all I need is for some entity to fill out the proper form and email it into the I.R.S. At least, as they say, the “Show is On the Road.” §

The Daily Beast Honors the Simpsons

Lisa Simpson Image: Fox Broadcasting Yes, the Simpsons are an astonishingly dysfunctional brood, but white sheep of the family, Lisa Simpson, has always remained a paragon of hard work and wholesome values. In the past two decades, her character has won a Genesis and Environmental Media Award for her environmentalist beliefs, including crusades against animal cruelty and support for vegetarianism. Bart and Homer may laugh at her goody-two-shoes persona, but the rest of us know she's right.

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The Mexican government is notably upset (as well it should be) about Arizona’s new law discriminating against undocumented Mexican workers which will allow police officers to ask for their documentation just on suspicion of their being illegal. As a result it has issued a travel notice warning Mexican citizens against travel through the U. S. state of Arizona. The law newly signed into law, for the first time will make racial profiling by police an approved, state sanctioned activity. And what in the past was usually a penalty of deportation accompanying being unmasked as an undocumented worker, under the new law suspects can be jailed for extended periods of time.

Hispanics are understandably upset over the bill, as are civil libertarians the country over, and they are suggesting such measures as putting in place a ban on travel to the state and economically boycotting it as punishment for the signing into law of the legislation. Perhaps if the state suffered economically Arizonians would think twice about enacting discriminating legislation in the future. §

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Arizona police wait in the weeds to challenge brown skin types with an accent, with the words, “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?!” Photo Alan Diaz-AP

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I.R.S. Forms Arrive

Trips to two doctors this week limited the time I had to prepare this week’s blog. One visit, to Surgical Eye Associates, who in 2002 replaced my cataract covered lenses with ones I can now see through. My eye exam went well, I had skipped last year altogether, but my readings were not that different from those of two years ago. Good news in that the old bogeyman diabetes has yet to rear it’s ugly head in my vision.

My visit with Dr. Barry Troyan, my internal medicine guy, did not turn out so well. My blood sugar readings have been high lately, which was the reason he had me come in. He wanted to give me a new prescription to lower my blood sugar readings. But more worrisome was my white blood cell count. He pointed out that it was way too high, as it had been several years ago when I was first diagnosed as having Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, a diagnosis I later found out from the V.A. oncologist was incorrect. And so I have sailed on through these years, happily writing my weekly blog, but doing little else. Now once again the threat of leukemia is rearing its white corpuscular head over my relatively peaceful horizon.

And what does the future hold for this soap opera which is my life? Who knows? In ten days I am to call back and report whether this new drug has brought down my blood sugar readings. So far it looks good, Friday’s reading of 184 dropped to 134 Saturday morning. He wants to see me in his office again in a month, at which time he will probably want to hook me up with yet another oncologist. At which time here we go again. But you know, it’s not so bad knowing that little bug that’s liable to do you in. It would be nice to be supplied with a script, perhaps with a time line. But since that’s not likely to happen, I get to savor the mystery. Perhaps our last mystery I’ll get to savor. §

A pack of riders manages to pass through a field without pushing up daisies during the first stage of the Tour de Romandie cycling race near Porrentruy, Switzerland. Photo Denis Balibouse-Reuters
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And so once again we’ve managed to fritter away another edition of the weakly Little Eddy Blog. Sorry we didn't get any camp memories in this week, the week’s doctor visits meant there was less time for preparation, which meant we added more photographs to fill the space. But we'll be back into camp next week for sure.

We do this little thing every week, writing, collecting photos, videos, etc., and we’ll be back at it next week providing our computer starts up, and our white corpuscles don’t start acting up. We hope you’ll find your way back just in case we stumble across something worth reading about or seeing. Meantime, bye now, don’t take any wooden tea party-ers. Tin ones would probably be alright, just no wooden ones.

The Real Little Eddy §

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